Baby, it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. There are several plants that thrive in the cooler months and can transform your garden into a winter wonderland. Others are a little more delicate but shouldn’t be left to the last minute to plant if you’re wanting to enjoy a beautiful spring garden filled with flowers showing their colourful faces to the sun. So get into your (flower) beds and garden this winter and enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labour.
Flowering this month
While many plants shy away from harsh winter conditions, the African Daisy (Arctotis) is a hardy plant that boasts beautiful large and colourful daisy-like flowers that range from pink to red, yellow and burnt orange. These evergreen flowers, which have been said to look like an African sunset, are real sun worshippers, opening only when they are in bright sunlight.
If you’re looking for low maintenance flowers that add beautiful bursts of colour, then you will love the Treasure Flower (Gazanias). These water-wise plants require minimal watering and grow best in full sun. With their bright flowers, which range from bronze, orange, yellow, red, deep pink and mahogany, they can be added to flower beds or rockery to add colour to the garden for most of the year. Because they require minimal water, they grow well in drought-stricken areas too.
The Cancer Bush (Sutherlandia frutescens) is a small evergreen shrub that bears orange-red pea-like flowers on the tips of branches filled with greyish-green leaflets. This plant enjoys full sun and tolerates all soil types. It is tough and hardy and benefits from being watered moderately.
The Aloe ice-cream’s delightful two-toned pink to creamy white flowers make it a beautiful addition to the garden. This small aloe is well suited for smaller gardens and containers for added colour on patios.
What to spray
For those living in warmer climates Persian Buttercups (Ranunculus) may start to flower as early as July. Those living in cooler climates may need to wait until September to enjoy these beautiful, rose-like blossoms that are available in an array of bright colours. Whether you are lucky enough to be enjoying these beautiful flowers in July or waiting patiently for Spring, be sure to spray with a suitable fungicide to prevent mildew from growing on the leaves.
What to plant
For beautiful show-stopping gardens in the spring, the time to start gardening is now. For bursts of colour in the early spring, you can’t go wrong with the Daisy Bush (Argyranthemum). These easy-to-grow plants grow best in full sun and moderately fertile garden soil with good drainage. They will flower from spring until the first signs of frost and will bloom all year in areas with no frost.
Another low maintenance plant to plant now is the Cape Thatching Reed (Elegia tectorum). These hardy plants can withstand frost and drought well and adapt to most climates. Their bold architectural shape makes them an attractive addition to any garden. Plant in full sun and remove brown decaying culms and enjoy the golden-brown flower spikes in autumn, they will be well worth the wait.
Agapanthus ‘Buccaneer’ (Lily of the Nile) is like the gift that just keeps giving. These fast-growing plants with prolific dark blue flowers are fantastic re-bloomers that flower from early summer to late summer. Plant in a sunny spot with well-drained soil and enjoy these flowers every year.
What to Prune
This is a good time to transplant roses if necessary. It’s also the best time to prune your rose bushes. After pruning be sure to feed your roses, dig compost into the rose beds, spray bare stems to kill insect and fungal spores and water your roses once a week.
To celebrate Madiba’s birthday, why not plant the ‘Nelson Mandela’ Floribunda rose. It produces T fiery orange blooms, grows into a tall, stately upright bush and is covered with shiny, dark green foliage. Part of the proceeds from the sale of these rose plants are donated to the Nelson Mandela Foundation which facilitates Nelson Mandela’s living legacy and is mandated to promote his lifelong vision of freedom and equality for all. So plant a rose bush and do good at the same time.
July is the perfect time for you to pick and enjoy the citrus fruits that you have been growing. While you may not need to use all the fruits at once, you can keep young citrus trees lightly covered with frost protection fleece to protect the tree and its fruits to enjoy when ready. Once you have picked all the citrus fruit, prune the tree and remove any dead branches to prepare for more fruit next winter. This is also the time to prepare for spring fruits so prune your trees bearing soft fruits, such as plums and peaches, now to get the best quality fruit from your trees.
Plant some Strawberry (Strawberry ‘Selecta’) plants now and enjoy eating strawberries in the spring. This fruit is easy to grow in full sun, fertile, well-drained soil. Mulch can also be helpful to protect the plant from mould and keep weeds at bay. Cover your plant with a light netting at the first sight of strawberries. Make sure that light can get in thought so that the strawberries continue to grow.
What to sow
With Spring around the corner, this is a good time to start planting to enjoy fresh salads. Sow early crops of herbs and vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, beetroot and radishes as well as parsley and garlic chives.
As most of the country experiences a dry winter, it is especially important to be water-wise while enjoying your garden. Some plants are better at withstanding the drier months and gardens across the country stand to benefit from planting some of these beautiful plants that mostly require full sun and minimal water.
- Aloe Orange Delight (Aloe arborescens) this easy to grow Aloe boasts beautiful orange flowers on long inflorescences. Plant it in a sunny or semi-shaded spot, water moderately and enjoy the delightful orange flowers between June and August.
- Aloe Firechief Charles With its fiery red flowers, these aloes add beautiful colour to a winter garden. They are easy to grow in rich, well-drained soil and full sun.
- Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia parvifolia, Strelitzia juncea and Strelitzia reginae) boasting beautiful orange and blue crane like flowers, these plants are a great focal point for any garden. While they can be drought resistant, they thrive in subtropical regions with summer rainfalls.
- White Correa (Correa alba) this fast-growing evergreen shrub has leathery grey-green leaves and grows to approximately 1.5m in height. While it looks beautiful, it is also a hardy plant that requires little water and can even withstand drought and frost.
Water-wise plants are a dream to have in the garden throughout the year. They require very little and at the same time add splashes of colour to the garden. If you’re looking for low maintenance gardening, you can’t go wrong with water-wise plants to turn your garden into an instant winter wonderland.
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
Feed the birds
The cold winter months bring several challenges for birds. In particular, food and water can be scarce. During this time you can help attract these feathery friends to your garden with brightly coloured flowers, bird baths and bird feeds. Birds are attracted to bright flowers, fruits, insects and water. Add a bird bath and feeding station to your garden and you will be sure to have a variety of birds visiting your garden this winter. Put out some suet and meat-based foods to feed insect-eating birds along with some seeds, over-ripe fruit and peanut butter to attract a wider range of birds.
As an alternative to a bird bath, you could add a running water feature to attract the birds and add a focal point to your garden. Many of the most beautiful gardens include running water features that convert the garden to a tranquil haven. Winter is the ideal time to start working on your water feature to have it ready for the spring when most flowers will start to bloom.
(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)
Veggies galore and flowers for spring
As July means that the days are starting to get a little longer, it is a good time to plan for the warmer months that lie ahead. This is the ideal time to sow vegetable seeds and plant flowers ahead of spring. Good vegetable options to plant now are lettuce, radish, turnips, cabbage, beetroot and broccoli. To get the best results, use compost and organic fertilizer in your vegetable garden and apply a liquid fertiliser to your vegetables every two weeks.
Reshape your flower beds and plant and array of colourful flowers to fill up any gaps now. The best flowers to plant now are Gazania, Aquilegias, Petunia and Nasturtiums.